Sitting a mere 35km away from the tourism giant of Bali, Lombok is almost an entirely different world. Crossing the gap between these two islands brings you over a transitional boundary known as the “Wallace Line.” This line represents the geographical divide between the Asian and Australian continental plates. As such, the environmental transition that takes place while crossing over is drastic.
In place of vibrant tropical rainforests, you have a somewhat arid but hauntingly beautiful golden-hued rolling hills surrounded by some of the clearest and bluest water you’re likely to see anywhere. The flora and fauna of Lombok is of an entirely different nature, too. In place of typically Asian species, Lombok is home to species that are more closely related to those found in Australia.
And that’s not all that makes Lombok different. The island is also host to an entirely unique culture. The Sasaks who live there have fused traditional Animist beliefs with Islam to create a unique culture that is truly unto itself in many ways.
While Bali is more about tourism, beaches and relaxation, Lombok is more about the simple joy of travel itself. It appeals to those who have a slightly different take on vacations- people who value authenticity and uniqueness in destinations more than convenience. While millions of visitors flock to Bali each year, very few ever make it to Lombok- and that’s exactly why you should go!
In typical Indonesian fashion, Lombok’s attractions are roughly divided between beach destinations, natural attractions, and cultural ones.
The most famous of these is undoubtedly Mount Rinjani. At over 3,600m, it’s Indonesia’s second highest volcano and, arguably, one of the most famous for travellers. Rinjani enjoys widespread praise not only because of its astounding natural beauty, but also because of the relative ease in getting there. Most reasonably fit travellers can conquer its summit for unrivalled views of the Crater Lake below in the space of a single day.
Senggigi is a fairly unavoidable stopping point for anyone spending a reasonable amount of time in Lombok. It’s not only the island’s largest tourist centre, offering all manner of shops, restaurants and accommodation, but it also has a pretty decent beach. Senggigi Beach is a long strip of fine white sand with waters suited to swimming, snorkelling and diving.
The road between Senggigi and Pemenang may not be an attraction, per se, but that doesn’t make it any less must see. This well-paved strip of coastal road winds up and around the hills and valleys of western Lombok and offers some of the most scenic viewpoints on the entire island. The highest of these, Malimbu Hill, offers spectacular views over Malimbu Beach and the Gili Islands between Lombok and Bali.
To get an up-close-and personal interaction with the resident wildlife of Lombok, head to Pusuk Monkey Forest. The scenic view at the top of the mountain, where a large troop of monkeys live, is an experience unto itself. Be careful with your belongings here, though, as the monkeys are known for being a bit rambunctious!
Aside from Senggigi, the biggest tourist centre on the island is Kuta. Those familiar with its Bali counterpart will be pleasantly surprised. In addition to being more quaint and charming, Lombok’s Kuta also hosts several gorgeous beaches at Mawun, Tanjung Aan and Selong Belanak. Mawun Beach is widely regarded as one of the most gorgeous in all of Lombok.
Lombok is also home to a good many waterfalls that make for excellent side-trips during a stay on the island. The most notable of those within a relatively close proximity to the main tourist centres of Lombok are Tiu Teja, Tiu Kelep or Sendang Gile. For those with a bit more time, there are some spectacular waterfalls closer to the centre of the island at Benang Kelambu and Benang Stokel.
Finally, one would be remiss not to spend some amount of time exploring the rich cultural heritage of Lombok. The Sasak people who live on the island have inhabited it for centuries. The most visited of their villages are Rambitan and Sade Village. The former is the less touristy of the two, while both will give visitors a nice glimpse into the island’s local culture.
How to get there:
By Plane: All arrivals by air enter through Lombok International Airport (Bandara Internasional Lombok), as it’s the only airport on the island. Located in Central Lombok, it’s about 40km south of Lombok’s capital, Mataram, an hour and a half drive to Senggigi and 30 minutes’ drive to Kuta.
By boat: Many of Lombok’s visitors come from Bali by boat. From Bali ferry links travel from Padang Bai Harbour in Bali to Lembar Harbour in southwest Lombok, about an hour south of Senggigi. Transport vans will be waiting to transport travellers onward to their next destination upon arrival. Not including land-transport time, the journey takes between four and five hours.
There are also a number of “Fast Boat” services linking Bali to Lombok. These depart from either Padang Bai Harbour or Benoa Harbour (near Serangan) and take between an hour and an hour and a half.